Monday, June 14, 2010

Interns Testify at the CA Commission on the Status of Women

Last Friday, the Feminist Majority Foundation Campus Interns went to the California Commission on the Status of Women's Public Hearing in Pasadena, California. It gave us a chance to voice our concerns to passionate women with political connections who will be able to make policy recommendations for administrative action on issues affecting women and girls in California. FMF concentrated their testimonies on urging the commission to oppose budget cuts to Family PACT and encourage California to adopt a Truth in Advertising Statute for Crisis Pregnancy Centers (or CPCs).

Eden: I focused my testimony on Family PACT,
urging the commission to oppose Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts on this family planning health program for uninsured residents. Family PACT gives uninsured Californians access to health care and birth control. It is funded by both the state and the federal government, and California only pays for ten percent of the entire program.

Furthermore, research shows that since Family PACT is able to prevent about 296,000 unintended pregnancies a year, it saves California more than $4 billion in medical and social service costs associated with unintended pregnancy each year. Therefore, for every dollar that the state invests in Family PACT, California saves $9.25. Thus, there is absolutely no reason to cut such a successful program that helps millions of California women, men, and adolescents every year.

Emily: A "Truth in Advertising Statute" would require CPCs to state that the facility does not provide services, information or referrals for abortion or comprehensive birth control. The cities of Baltimore, Maryland and Austin, Texas have enacted Truth in Advertising ordinances and we recommended that California become the first state to enact a Truth in Advertising Statute.

CPCs often target low-income women and college students, with the assumption that they are "high abortion risk," but they are actually high unintended pregnancy rates that could be lowered with access to comprehensive resources and education. CPCs are often advertised as "options counseling" or "abortion services" and are routinely listed on college health centers' referral lists. Congressional studies have shown that 87% of CPCs provide false or misleading information about abortion and birth control. The health of the women and girls who visit these clinics is at risk as many who enter the clinics are not aware that these are not medical facilities staffed by obgyns or nurse practitioners.

Angelica: I also spoke about getting California to become the first state to pass legislation that would require CPCs to post clear disclaimers that say they do not provide information, referrals, or services to do with birth-control or abortion. But I distinguished my argument by focusing on CPCs' target on areas they deem "high abortion risk", areas like my hometown.

When I searched for CPCs around my town, I found two within five blocks of each other on the same street, and two more within two miles. This was shocking to me. But then I realize that it made sense. I come from a conservative, mostly religious, low income town, with high unintended teen pregnancy rates; this is exactly what CPCs are looking for. CPCs can then become crucial centers for the community, sometimes being one of the few "resources" these women have.

By implementing legislation that calls for Truth in Advertising, these women become aware about the services that are not being provided to them, and can make educated decisions about their health.It is important for communities to have a voice in policy making and public hearings provide excellent opportunities to do so. We encourage you to actively follow and search for public hearings in your area. This was an excellent and inspiring event. We were all really empowered by our ability to make recommendations for California policy.

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